Trips to the San Francisco Bay area are often filled with the hustle and bustle of city life. If you can free up some time, make sure to visit Muir Woods National Monument on the Marin County side of the San Francisco Bay. There’s so much to do in Muir Woods with kids and it’s a perfect day trip from the city!
Located just a short drive north from San Francisco (over the Golden Gate Bridge!), Muir Woods National Monument offers a welcome contrast from the business of the city and the old-growth coast redwoods contribute to the lush views that surround you.
The land for Muir Woods was donated by Congressman William Kent, and though President Roosevelt wanted to name the monument after him, Kent pushed to have it named after the great preservationist, John Muir, instead.
Muir Woods officially became a National Monument on January 9, 1908, by a Presidential Proclamation of President Theodore Roosevelt– this was before the National Park Service even existed!! In 1916, Congressman Kent introduced the bill that created the National Park Service.
We always make sure to arrive early in the day so that we can enjoy walking along the lush trails in peace– it definitely gets more crowded as the day goes on. We recommend stopping at the Visitor Center to get a park map, a passport stamp, and the most up-to-date information about things in the park. The Visitor Center is open daily from 8am-430pm, though the park stays open until 5pm.
When we went a few years ago, it was recommended to arrive early because parking is extremely limited. Now, you’re required to book a $9 parking reservation online at Go Muir Woods. While you do need to select a 30-minute arrival window and arrive within the window, you are able to stay in the park until it closes so your time in the park is not limited in any way.
However, that leads me to believe that parking could still be an issue, especially later in the day, so personally, I would still aim for an earlier time if possible. There are shuttles into the park from Pohono Park & Ride (which offers free parking) for $3.50/person over 16. Reservations are required and the shuttle is currently only operating on weekends and holidays.
Kids can become a Junior Ranger by completing a free activity book from the Visitor Center. There’s also a virtual Junior Ranger program online available for families that are choosing not to travel at this time.
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike” — John Muir, 1912.
Muir Woods offers over 6 miles of trails with most visitors choosing to do the Main Trail Loop. It features a 1/2 hour loop, a 1-hour loop, and a 1 1/2 hour loop depending on which bridge you choose to cross and head back. The Main Trail Loop, departing from the Visitor Center, takes you through old-growth forests with coast redwoods towering 250 feet overhead.
The kids thought it was so cool that they could actually go inside the tree! And they were in constant awe over the size of these giant coast redwoods.
The kids were really intrigued by the bicentennial tree– and it was a great opportunity to talk about the word “bicentennial” since it isn’t used very often!
While the Bicentennial Tree is nowhere near the oldest tree in the park (some are nearly 1000 years old), it does have the same birth year as the United States!
Ellie’s favorite part of our visit was the giant bear carving outside of the gift shop! There are two separate gift shops at Muir Woods- one at the Visitor Center with a wide range of books and another, the Muir Woods Trading Company, with the usual touristy stuff. Our kids definitely had more fun exploring the Trading Company and we had to drag them out when we were done looking.
Things to Remember for a Trip to Muir Woods With Kids
- Parking is extremely limited– and needs to be reserved online ahead of time.
- The park is open 365 days a year but hours vary depending on the season.
- In addition to parking/shuttle costs, it is $15 per adult (16 and over) to get into the park. Alternatively, you can get a Muir Woods annual pass for $45 or a National Parks Annual Pass for $80 and those cover your admission for a year. We highly recommend getting the America the Beautiful National Parks Annual Pass and crossing a few National Parks off your bucket list.
- The Main Trail Loop is a stroller-friendly boardwalk and paved trails so bring the kids and experience the serenity that Muir Woods has to offer!
Have you ever been to Muir Woods National Monument?? What’s your favorite California National Park/Monument??
Looking for more things to do in the San Francisco area? Check out these posts:
- Things to Do In San Francisco With Kids
- Point Bonita Lighthouse | California
- Alcatraz Night Tour | San Francisco, CA